According to information received by Plunderbund, the newly appointed leadership team at the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) is working on a plan that will likely result in a 40% staff reduction at the department’s central office.

The new ODOT Strategic Plan is slated for release on Monday, August 8th and while they are still working out some of the details, we have been told that the “planning, construction, engineering” divisions “have been told to plan for 40% staff reduction over an as-yet unknown period of time.” An internal ODOT memo describes likely changes:

· This should not hit core areas
· Won’t dump on districts
· Outsourcing may be used
· Lay-offs have not been mentioned
· Every section will take a hit

It’s very difficult to see how ODOT could reduce their central office staff of 500+ WITHOUT layoffs. But it’s almost guaranteed that ODOT’s plan, as mentioned in the memo, will involve “outsourcing” – which likely means eliminating bargaining unit (unionized) positions and replacing them with consultants.

People familiar with ODOT have expressed concerns that this will directly impact the time it takes for major new construction and the associated engineering to get approved. And since ODOT administers numerous federal funding streams, having fewer staff could mean it takes longer to get the money out the door and less oversight to make sure it’s being spent appropriately.

Non-highway programs like Safe Routes to School, airports, transit are already minimally staffed. Cuts to these programs would almost guarantee that ODOT would be out of the multi-model business altogether. In addition, replacing ODOT staff with more consultants would further decentralize the department and make strategic, statewide efforts increasingly difficult while increasing financial and other risks within the department.

It’s the job of the production and construction divisions to ensure the public gets a good value from the billions in design and construction work performed by consultants every year. Staff reductions could end up outsourcing plan review and inspection functions – which means we could end up with private consultants managing and reviewing the work of other private consultants with little no safety, quality or financial oversight being done by ODOT itself.

By next week we should know for sure how ODOT plans to make these cuts – and who will be directly impacted. But we can all be assured that cutting nearly half the staff at the ODOT central office will ultimately impact all of us – and not for the better.